20 May 2012

Indian Railways - Tiruvannamalai Station

In connection with my recent posting on Arunachala Grace about the development of Tiruvannamalai Railway Station, I think it might be interesting to give some history on Indian Railways and information on the conversion of Metre Gauge tracks to Broad Gauge at Tiruvannamalai Station and its surrounds. 

The first railway built in India in 1852 covered a distance
of 34kms between Bombay and Thane and the first passenger
train started to run between these two stations, on April 16, 1853.

Indian Railways, a Department of the Government of India, under the Ministry of Railways, operates the Indian rail network which is one of the largest and busiest rail networks in the world. Each day it transports 17 million passengers and 2 million tonnes of freight. It is also one of the largest employers in the world with a workforce of 1.6 million employees. 

Railways were first introduced to India in 1853. By 1985, steam locomotives were phased out in favour of diesel and electric locomotives. In 1951 the diverse railway systems were nationalized and became one unit with six zonal divisions, which for administrative purposes, were subsequently divided into seventeen zones. 

One of those zones is Southern Railways, which in its present form, came into existence on 14th April 1951 through the merger of three state railways; Madras and Southern Mahratta Railway, South Indian Railway, and Mysore State Railway. 

Southern Railway's present network covers 5,235 kms of track and extends over a large area of India's Southern Peninsula. Headquartered at Chennai, the Southern Railway comprises six divisions; Chennai, Tiruchirapalli, Madurai, Palghat, Trivandrum and Salem, and has a total staff strength of approximately 105,000. 

The work recently undertaken at Tiruvannamalai has been the conversion of Metre Gauge tracks to Broad Gauge and the development of Tiruvannamalai Station and its surrounds. Metre gauge is still found on about 17,000 km of the Indian Rail network. It is said that metre gauge was chosen by Lord Mayo (then Viceroy of India) based on calculations to allow four persons to sit comfortably abreast; it would have been 3'3" except that there was a push (at that time) to move to the metric system and so the gauge became one metre. However, the metric system was not adopted until nearly a century later, so the railway track gauge was the only thing in India that was 'metric' for a long time. 

Another reason for narrow gauge railways is that it was substantially cheaper to build, equip, and operate than standard gauge or broad gauge railways, particularly in difficult terrain. However the problem with narrow gauge railroads is they lack room to grow and their cheap construction is bought at the price of being engineered only for initial traffic demands. While a standard or broad gauge railroad could more easily be upgraded to handle heavier, faster traffic, many narrow gauge railroads are impractical to improve. Speeds and loads cannot increase, so traffic density is significantly limited. An additional reason for the conversion of rail tracks to broad gauge is to ensure stability in the face of the cyclonic winds of Indian weather. 


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